Sixty-nine acts of vandalism against churches occurred in the first quarter of the year, constituting a significant increase in the number of attacks compared to previous years.
The Family Research Council, a socially conservative think-tank based in Washington, D.C., released a supplemental report outlining “Hostility Against Churches” in the first quarter of 2023. The data builds on an earlier report published in December, which documented attacks on churches between January 2018 and December 2022.
January saw the highest number of church attacks, totaling 43 documented incidents. Fourteen acts of vandalism occurred in February, while 12 occurred in March.
The number of attacks against churches during the first three months of 2023 represents a marked increase in the number of incidents that occurred in the first three months of the previous five years. The Family Research Council recorded 15 attacks against churches in the first three months of 2018, 12 in the same period in 2019, 14 in the first quarter of 2021, and 22 in the first four months of 2022. 2020 saw no attacks on churches in its first three months.
The report documents the damage done in the attacks on churches by organizing them into five categories: vandalism, arson and/or fire, gun-related incidents, bomb threats and an “other” category. It categorized 53 of the attacks on churches as an example of vandalism, 10 as arson and three as gun-related incidents. The report measured three bomb threats and two incidents that fell into the “other” category. Two instances of vandalism fell into more than one category.
The attacks cited in the report span 29 states. North Carolina experienced the highest number of incidents at seven, followed by Ohio and Tennessee with five each and Florida, Missouri and Pennsylvania experienced four each.
California, Montana, New Jersey, New York and Oregon each saw three attacks, while Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington each had at least one. The remaining states did not have any attacks cited in the report.
Examples of vandalism listed in the report include the smashing of the sanctuary and the theft of audio-visual equipment at Holy Nation Church in Memphis, Tennessee, and the spraying of a fire extinguisher throughout Dellabrook Presbyterian Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
At Jesus Is Alive World Reading Center in Reading, Pennsylvania, vandals destroyed sound equipment, a podium, stained-glass windows and a piano. They also threw chairs around the building and destroyed the carpet by spraying it with a fire extinguisher.
Instances of arson cited in the report include a fire at a vacant Korean Church in Portland, Oregon, and the targeting of a historically black church in Austin, Texas, that caused $200,000 in damage.
The document listed the mass shooting that occurred at The Covenant School, a Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee, two weeks ago as a “gun-related incident,” along with the firing of 50 rounds at a Mennonite church building in Versailles, Missouri, and a late-night shooting at Praise Temple Baptist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana, that sent four to the hospital.
Bomb threats documented in the report included the discovery of a pipe bomb outside St. Dominic Catholic Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a threat directed at Gracelife Chapel near Peverly, Ohio, and a false bomb threat at a church in Nashville. One of the incidents classified as “other” was a stabbing at Crossfire Church in Springfield, Oregon.
Two of the acts of vandalism highlighted in the report appeared to have an explicitly political message. At St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Missouri, a vandal spray-painted the phrase “TRANS PWR” on the building's exterior, expressing support for the LGBT agenda. At a church in Riverview, Florida, a vandal defaced the property with a phrase reading “Womens body womens choice,” suggesting sympathy with the pro-choice point of view on abortion.
The Christian Post has been keeping multiple lists of all of the instances of vandalism against both churches and pro-life pregnancy centers following the May 2, 2022, publication of a leaked draft U.S. Supreme Court decision where a majority of justices appeared poised to overturn the Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
The first list contains information about attacks that occurred in the weeks following the publication of the leaked draft decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that determined that the U.S. Constitution did not contain a right to abortion. The second article about pro-abortion vandalism lists the attacks that took place after the Supreme Court published the official Dobbs decision on June 24. The third list documents attacks against churches that have taken place in the past six months.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org